WESTMINSTER, Md. -- Five years at Auburn provided rookie Ben Grubbs with the background he needed to make an impression in his first NFL training camp. Nothing he experienced in Alabama, however, could prepare him for the heat and humidity of August in Maryland.
Grubbs, the Baltimore Ravens' top draft pick in the 2007 draft, has quickly adjusted to the speed of the pro game. The 315-pound guard carries himself like a veteran, holds his own against established defensive linemen and has impressed the coaching staff with his intelligence.
Nothing he's encountered has come as a surprise - except for the unbearable weather.
"I'm from Alabama. I know it gets hot down there, but the heat here is unbelievable," Grubbs said Tuesday. "It's a different type of heat. I wasn't ready for this."
Grubbs has overcome the sun and a sprained right knee to prove his worthiness as the 29th overall pick.
"Ben is one of the smartest offensive linemen as a rookie that I have ever coached. He has really acclimated well to our system, to the calls, understanding the knowledge of plays," offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. "I don't know if it's the offense they ran at Auburn, or maybe it's just him, but he's learned the offense as well any young guy I have seen in 15 years of coaching the line."
It hasn't all come naturally. After the rest of the team trudged off the field following Tuesday's morning practice, Grubbs worked on his technique with Foerster, repeatedly popping out of a three-point stance until he got it right.
"The coach saw the problem and wanted me to stay after and correct it, which I did. That's what it takes," Grubbs said. "I've spent a lot of time looking at the playbook. Right now, the basics are coming to me, but the simple things that we tend to forget cause problems. That's what I'm trying to correct."
Grubbs entered Auburn as a defensive tackle, was switched to tight end as a redshirt freshman and converted to a guard the following season. He finished his career at Auburn with 38 consecutive starts at left guard.
Last April, he became the first offensive lineman selected in the opening round by Baltimore since Jonathan Ogden in 1996. Then, after signing a five-year contract late last month, Grubbs became the Ravens' first No. 1 pick since Todd Heap in 2001 to report to training camp on time.
Grubbs' progress was slowed by a sprained knee ligament, which forced him to miss a week of practice. He returned Tuesday, and still has four preseason games to adjust to playing football at the highest level.
"Ben needs every single rep he can get," Foerster said, "so it's good that he can bounce back from his injury."
Grubbs will probably begin the regular season as a backup. But he's got the skill and the mental makeup to receive considerable playing time, and should be a fixture on the line for years to come.
"Ben is a strong, sharp, quick guy. He has good, quick hands. He needs to work on shifting his weight a little bit, because a couple times he gets pushed back. But, other than that, he's a good athlete," defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said.
"He looks like he has experience. He kind of has that veteran swagger," Ngata added. "But he's not like a guy that's cocky about himself. He's working real hard and looks real good. He will be a good player for us in the future."
Until that time, Grubbs will answer to the nickname "First-Rounder."
"They've treated me as a first-rounder, and that's what they call me," he said. "I just try to keep my mouth closed and listen. The guys respect that."
Notes: Coach Brian Billick adjusted the practice schedule this week because of the heat. He moved Tuesday afternoon's practice inside and canceled Wednesday's afternoon session. The team has a scheduled off day Thursday before returning Friday to prepare for Monday night's preseason opener against Philadelphia.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press